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The increasing urban population has led to an alarming rise in waste production rates. Some of these wastes are hazardous. The federal law and state regulations use the terms hazardous materials to refer to substances that have lethal, combustible, corrosive, and reactive properties that may be considered detrimental or potentially destructive to the environment and human beings. These materials take the form of gasses, solid contents, or even liquids. Sludge is also considered a hazardous waste. Some wastes are eco-friendly. Hazardous materials pose a major threat to both human health and the surroundings. To mitigate this challenge, urban centers, industries, and even individual consumers of mass-produced products need to reduce the amount of waste production and incorporate the appropriate strategies for effective waste management within their waste management facilities.
This concern presents both managerial and social issues that are associated with hazardous material consumption because of returns, recycling, and waste management of products. This paper reviews these issues. It also makes recommendations for future research.
Hazardous waste materials from industrial products are problematic in all places around the globe. However, even through the management of wastes presents challenges in the developed nations, developing nations experience unique challenges due to lack of capacity and poor implementation of regulations on environmental protection coupled with recycling and disposal of the wastes. Massawe, Legleu, Vasut, Brandon, and Shelden (2014) identify five stages of managing hazardous wastes in both developed and developing nations. The phases include, “problem identification and legislation, selection of a lead agency, promulgation of rules and regulations, development of treatment and disposal capacity, and the creation of a mature compliance and enforcement program” (Massawe et al., 2014, p. 27).
Nevertheless, developing nations lag behind in terms of enacting and promulgating established policies for waste management. Hence, social and management challenges for hazardous materials are pronounced in developing nations. This position may be true considering that solid wastes in urban centers may be hazardous if not correctively management and that this situation continues to present challenges in developing nations.
The World Bank (2013) confirms the severity of hazardous solid wastes in urban areas. Ten years ago, urban centers housed about 3 billion people where each person generated approximately 0.65kg of MSW (municipal solid waste) per day. This figure amounts to about 0.7 billion tons of MSW per annum. With the onset of the increased consumption of mass-produced manufactured products, urban populations have increased.
Waste production per individual urban residents has also increased. The World Bank (2013) provides an estimate that the population of urban centers’ residents is about 3 billion where each person produces about 1.3kg of wastes on a daily basis. Projecting these statistics in 10 years to come, the world’s urban population will have grown to about 4.5 billion people. The corresponding increase in waste production will go up to 1.4kg per individual on a daily basis. This projected figure amounts to close to 2.3 billion tons of MSW annually. This finding suggests that the menace of hazardous solid waste will continue to plague global populations of all nations if they do not adopt the best practice in recycling and disposing product-associated wastes.
Waste materials from the mining of oil appear in the form of oil spill that presents a clear picture of the danger posed by product-associated wastes. For example, in the Niger Delta, oil spill during mining, processing, and transportation of oil products poses environmental, health, and social problems to the marine life and even people. In this region, environmental sustainability is impaired to the extent that oil spillage has deteriorated the natural environment. The situation has reduced food production since it has impaired subsistence farming and fishing activities. Although the situation is uncontrollable in some situations, oil spillage leaves irreversible effects on the environment.
For instance, drilling and exploration involve specialized procedures that often lead to catastrophic incidents such as unexpected blowouts of gases and other hydrocarbons that have a negative impact on the environment. Spills at this stage generate unremitting effects on the marine atmosphere due to the prolonged hydrocarbon generation and its long-term health effects. Such consequences have the implication of reducing the capacity of the environment to support human life. The implication is that the natural environment becomes unsustainable.
Global economies depend on energy to drive them. However, the process of developing, extracting, and transporting energy as an input product to the industries gives rise to wastes, which present social and waste management challenges (Mallak, Ishak, Kasim, & Samah, 2015). For example, nuclear wastes that are generated during the production of nuclear energy are highly hazardous to people and the environment. However, despite the problems that are associated with the nuclear energy such as the disposal of radioactive wastes, nuclear energy is a more viable option in comparison with renewable energy.
Nevertheless, some governments, including the British Administration, believe that renewable energy comprises the most dependable mechanism for enhancing environmental sustainability compared to nuclear energy, which generates highly hazardous wastes. Indeed, the government pledged that it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent between 1990 and 2050. In 2009, the British government laid aside some €100 billion to fund the renewable energy sector through 2020 (Ulfik & Nowak, 2014). This position is much welcome considering the Japanese experience in managing the nuclear reactor disaster.
When green wastes pile in a landfill, the absence of air causes a breakdown of the material into methane, CO2, mulch, and water with the help of anaerobic organisms. In landfills, CO2 and methane come out in approximately equal magnitudes (Massawe et al., 2014). Further decomposition of methane to produce water and CO2 to produce energy for electricity production is necessary. If not well done, its liberation to the atmosphere produces almost 25-times effect via global warming in comparison with CO2 (Massawe et al., 2014). Therefore, the goal of waste management systems should ensure zero release of methane into the atmosphere as a precautionary measure for reducing the danger of global warming. However, this is not the case in some nations, especially developing ones.
In some situations, green waste is left unattended or allowed to decompose without the necessary attention. Mallak et al. (2015) support this position by reckoning that the majority of less developed nations experience the problem of waste damping and mismanagement. In such nations, economic liberalization exacerbates the problem of waste management by increasing the quantity, types, and source of various hazardous wastes.
Unsecured and wrongly stored hazardous wastes pose human health and environmental social challenges. The challenges are more escalated in case of direct contact of the waste with already contaminated medium. The implication of hazardous wastes on people’s health is experienced through microbiological contaminants by air, soil, or even water (Ulfik & Nowak, 2014). It also occurs through chemical exposure. Hence, hazardous waste management practices pose threats to public health.
Massawe et al. (2014) regard issues such as the high costs that are incurred in waste disposal, inadequacy of disposal facilities, strict regulations and laws, and the decline of natural resources as critical problems that are associated with effective management of domestic hazardous wastes. Some of the important ways of managing hazardous wastes include reprocessing, onsite treatment, and the reclamation of wastes. However, recycling presents challenges to human health considering that it requires waste collection and transportation to a reprocessing facility. In this process, the contact between the waste and people or the environment occurs.
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Despite the challenge in social and management of wastes, it is necessary for people to seek mechanisms for reducing the implications of the hazardous wastes. This goal can be accomplished through the engagement of people in the control and management of hazardous wastes. Massawe et al. (2014) studied the recycling efforts of hazardous household wastes by Louisiana residents with the primary objective of determining the motivation for engaging in waste management programs. The interviewed residents noted that local authorities’ commitment to human health protection and conservation of the environment were the key determinants for their active involvement in the program. People who are in close vicinity to wastes and/or who are socially affected by the wastes provide an active support to waste management through recycling and reusing practices.
Challenges in hazardous waste management increase human health risks. They also introduce social costs such as the contact between waste hazards and people who live in the neighborhoods where such materials are generated. Human exposure occurs during the lifecycle of hazardous substance disposal, transportation process, and management. Nations with poor technological capabilities on hazardous material management suffer higher social risks. However, by improving this capability, such nations can mitigate the risks. For example, by increased recycling of hazardous materials, nations can reduce social risks and/or conserve valuable resources.
Recycling of both product-related wastes and returned products is necessary. It saves money for organisations, which find an opportunity to use product-associated wastes as a source of their input. Additionally, it is necessary to control and improve environmental sustainability in human activities, including mining oil, which increase health risks due to oil product-associated hazardous waste risks. For example, spillage of stored products poses a major risk to the aquatic biodiversity, especially when the contents of storage reservoirs are toxic. Spillage of stored products also poses dangers to the environment when the contents can react to emit harmful gases. Hence, in the mining process, processing, storage, and transportation, exercising environmental governance is an important strategy for enhancing a good match between organisational, governmental, and community interests.
Environmental governance refers to the means by which the public determines and acts on goals and priorities that relate to the management of hazardous wastes that pose social and management challenges. Such acts entail the formal and informal regulations, which help in governing behaviors of people during decision-making processes. Promoting environmental governance through regulation plays an important role in reducing hazardous wastes. This situation can be enhanced through exercising due diligence in the use of wastes, waste collection methods, and their recycling.
Due care should also be exercised when handling potentially dangerous or dangerous products and their contents to avoid generating wastes. This strategy is perhaps an important finding considering that one case of spillage may cause devastative destruction to both flora and fauna. The contents, as opposed to the volume of the spill, pose dangers to the marine life and ecosystem, especially if they are impure and/or have corrosive features. Consequently, in the oil mining industry, regulating the contents of oil tankers is important to help in promoting the capacity of the environment to sustain human life.
Actions such as product processing, distribution, and consumption release wastes. The wastes can be in the form of solids, liquids, or gases. The waste can emanate from product leftovers, returns, or the associated processes such as packaging. Processing wastes may include toxic and non-toxic byproducts. For example, nuclear energy generation facilities produce nuclear waste, which is highly hazardous to both the environment and human life.
Processes such as the mining for oil and its transportation also generate wastes. Although the oil may not be hazardous, oil spills are immensely risky to the aquatic life. Although biodegradable product wastes may not be dangerous soon after consumption of the actual products, landfill becomes hazardous when a breakdown of the wastes into products such as methane and carbon dioxide begins. Returned products may pile within an organization, degrade, and become potential sources of health hazards. With the appreciation of the susceptibility to health and social risks by hazardous wastes that are associated with product recycling, returns, and waste management, it is necessary to adopt best practices in waste treatment and recycling.
Summary of Future Research Recommendations
From the discussions of the paper, it emerges that adequate reasons have been established to support the need for developing product-associated waste management strategies. The wastes cause pollution to the environment. Hence, managerial and social issues that are associated with hazardous material consumption because of returns, recycling, and waste management of product constitute a matter of not only local but also global concern. The problem afflicts all people. It has increased the government expenditure to address its negative implications. Hence, addressing it sufficiently requires the participation of all stakeholders around the globe. This move indicates the necessity for future research on how the stakeholder theory can help to increase or ensure environmental sustainability by reducing the exposure of people to hazardous product-associated wastes.
The paper confirms that when addressing product wastes, social and management challenges vary depending on the status of development for a given nation. To this extent, future research opportunities exist on how developing nations can emulate the developed nations’ technologies and approaches to managing hazardous wastes that are associated with product returns and recycling. The arguments raised in paper were not based on empirical data. More research should be done to find out how communities can participate in managing product-associated wastes. This move can help to provide evidence-based mechanisms for dealing with managerial and social issues that are linked to hazardous material consumption because of returns, recycling, and product waste management.
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